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Exhibiting in these spaces are works from The Dublin City University (DCU) MELLIE Programme’s Visual Voices which are presented alongside the IMMA Collection work Bok Gwai / White Ghost (2005) by artist Anthony Key. Through contrasting processes, both projects probe themes of hospitality, identity and displacement to address connected experiences.
The DCU MELLIE Programme’s Visual Voices is a collaborative storytelling project promoting equality, intercultural dialogue and social inclusion, facilitated by PhD candidate, Julie Daniel. Visual Voices adopts a photovoice methodology of sharing stories, recorded through image and text, to reflect the perspectives of everyone involved, DCU and Direct Provision participants alike. It tells the experiences of the individuals behind the labels of ‘migrant’, ‘refugee’, ‘asylum seeker’, ‘staff’ and ‘student’. The projects presented focus on the themes of hospitality and hope.
Anthony Key’s installation work Bok Gwai / White Ghost is made from a surprisingly familiar material. The iconic takeaway foil carton has been flattened and repurposed as a tile, the material is then impressed and amassed to create a precise 3D replica of a kitchen. Addressing themes of displacement, stereotypes, nostalgia and the power of food to psychologically transport someone to a place more familiar than where they are, this work implies many humble yet powerful associations with culture and identity.
The MELLIE Programme is part of the DCU University of Sanctuary initiative and is designed to facilitate language and cultural exchange. Through shared experiences, Direct Provision residents improve their English, gain a better understanding of Irish culture, and potentially make new friends.
The programme is an opportunity for DCU volunteers to get to know individuals who have come to Ireland seeking sanctuary and thus learn about their lives and experiences in Direct Provision. For Visual Voices, most of which was realised in early 2020 pre pandemic, up to 40 participants met weekly to exchange stories focusing on the themes of hospitality and hope. Online engagements continued through the early stages of lockdown.
The photography element of the programme was facilitated by artist Vukašin Nedeljković, creator of Asylum Archive.
The university of sanctuary movement, based on the concept of welcoming the stranger, promotes a culture of hospitality and inclusion in higher education for refugees and those seeking asylum.
International protection applicants in Ireland face obstacles in pursuing studies in higher education, due largely to a lack of financial means, and are thus often left in a limbo state. The consequences of this are social marginalisation, deterioration in mental health and wasted human potential.
The concept of sanctuary has three core principles: learn, embed, and share. In the context of universities, this entails learning about the refugee journey and the challenges to integrate into a new society. This learning is translated into action through initiatives such as scholarship schemes, arts and cultural integration projects, and advocacy campaigns to raise awareness and generate support for those seeking sanctuary.
Finally, universities of sanctuary commit to communicating what sanctuary entails, both within their own institutions as well as to the wider public, with a view to extending the culture of hospitality throughout society as a whole.
Dr Veronica Crosbie, Chairperson of Universities of Sanctuary Ireland.
Visual Voices adopts a photovoice methodology of sharing stories, recorded through image and text, to reflect the perspectives of everyone involved, DCU and Direct Provision participants alike. The text accompanying each image shares the experiences of the individuals, focussing on themes of hospitality and hope.
Click here to see the work of all the participants in the exhibition and read the full texts
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